THE DIOCESE OF OXFORD has completed its divestment from fossil fuel companies, becoming the first Church of England diocese to publicly announce its divestment as part of its commitment to good environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies.

The Rt Rev Dr Steven Croft, the Bishop of Oxford, announced the decision on a webinar organised by the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, Operation Noah and other partners on 25 March, entitled COP26, Divestment and Investment for Climate Justice.

The diocese also affirmed its commitment to invest in renewable energy. According to the most recent report from its investment managers, the Diocese of Oxford’s portfolio is in the 95th percentile in terms of ESG engagement compared with peers.

The Rev Dr Darrell Hannah, Chair of Operation Noah and Rector of All Saints Church in Ascot Heath, said: “This is, of course, good news. It restores the Diocese of Oxford to the lead position among Church of England dioceses in responding to the climate crisis. Those of us who live, work and serve in the Diocese of Oxford, and who are working for a more robust response to that crisis from the whole Church, can now do so again with integrity. I am very pleased and congratulate Bishop Steven and the whole of Bishop’s Council.”

The decision of the Diocese of Oxford to divest its own investments in fossil fuel companies comes after its leadership in calling for the Church of England’s National Investing Bodies to accelerate divestment from fossil fuels at the Church of England General Synod in July 2018.

Earlier in the week, on Wednesday 24 March, the Baptist Union decided to fully divest from fossil fuel companies. Baptist Union Council members overwhelmingly passed a resolution on divestment, with 98.5 per cent voting in favour. The proposal had been brought to Council by the Rev Dr Dave Gregory, Convenor of the Baptist Union’s Environmental Network, and was co-authored by John Levick, the Baptist Union Treasurer, as a practical commitment towards climate justice ahead of COP26.

Last year, CCLA Investment Management, whose CBF funds manage investments on behalf of many Church of England dioceses and local churches, sold its last remaining shares in fossil fuel companies (Shell and Total) for financial reasons.

However, the Church of England Pensions Board and Church Commissioners continue to invest in several oil and gas companies. The Church Commissioners continue to invest in ExxonMobil, despite  Exxon having blocked resolutions on climate change proposed by the Church Commissioners from being considered at its AGM in 2019 and 2020.

Last month, it was revealed that Shell is planning to increase gas production by 20 per cent in the next few years, despite the fact that global carbon emissions need to fall by 45 per cent by 2030 (compared with 2010 levels) if global average temperature rises are to be limited to 1.5°C, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

* Source :Operation Noah .

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